Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ukraine: Arriving and Preparing

WARNING: these upcoming blog posts will be extremely long!

Previet (hi)! Although it is difficult to convey all the feelings and experiences of Ukraine, I can say that we both are incredibly blessed to have been part of the team of Americans who partnered with Ukrainian staff to put on the English Language camp at Radooga. The Lord deeply blessed our time with each staff member and with our campers/classes (although some were quite difficult). 

One of my most treasured highlights was seeing Corey step up as a leader among the team. He blew me away with his willingness to get involved, be silly, easily build relationships with kids, share jokes, pray fervently, and serve. I married an amazing man, and I praise the Lord for him! It was neat to have others see what I see everyday in him :)

Since so much happened in the 10 days we were gone, I'm going to attempt to write about each day in a couple of blog posts instead of one large one. I'm also going to use information from the blog posts I wrote for the team while in Ukraine. (They were posted at 

Again due to the length of these posts, I may not include pictures. However, all of my pictures are posted on Facebook or they can be found here: If you have specific questions about any pictures, do not hesitate to let us know! We'd love to share our experience at any time :)

Okedoke, Ukraine Part 1. Here we go!

Monday July 16:
We left the airport at noon and arrived in Kiev, Ukraine at 5pm the next day. Two team members actually had flights for the next day, so they ended up switching their flights and flew to Amsterdam while we flew 8 hours to Paris. Did I tell you about those sleeping pills Corey and I tried before we left? They worked like a charm in Grand Rapids, but had the opposite affect on our way to Paris. Needless to say, our entire team was exhausted by the time we finally arrived. Also, Corey and I (along with one other team member) did not obtain our luggage because it was lost in Paris. Thankfully, we packed most of our essentials in our carry on.

Tuesday July 17:
After we arrived in Kiev, we located our rooms and checked out our bathrooms. First adjustment: you cannot flush your toilet paper. Second adjustment: we had a tomato and cucumber covered in dill for almost every meal (along with bread or potatoes), and we also tea with every meal. Then we unpacked what little we had in our carry on and laid in bed thinking, "what in the world are we doing here?" 

Wednesday July 18: 
This was the first day of orientation. We learned much about how the camp operates, and we met our beloved translators! Unique to Radooga is that they need Americans to draw in campers since they are eager to learn English from "real Americans", and we heavily relied upon the translators who create a bridge between us and the campers as English and the Gospel is taught. Then the youth leaders create the follow up and sustain change after the camp is over.

We also reviewed our English Language curriculum, some team members practiced the dramas while Corey and I went out with other Rec team members to practice the silly games. The Ukrainian Red team leader, Geana (sp?), was absolutely hilarious. We never failed to be entertained while with him. After this half day of orientation, we were able to experience the unusually uncrowded metro and have a historical tour of Kiev by our wonderful camp coordinator, Natasha. Late that night, a few of us developed our Rec team cheer. (It was really our team leader, Alex, and one of the translators, Sergey, who came up with it...after having tons of caffeine/unexpected engery). I was the one who led the cheer on stage with the rest of the Rec team when campers arrived. I felt so awkward singing it into a microphone, but then I remembered that "I'm in Ukraine and at a camp. No one really cares" :)

Thursday July 19:
This day we brushed up on our Russian (really we just attempted and pretended we could speak it), practiced in our teams (worship, Rec or drama), prepared for campers to arrive the next day, and we were blessed to worship in Russian with our fellow Ukrainian leaders. Later this day we met the entire Ukrainian team (not just our translators), and words cannot begin to describe how thankful we were for them. They are all so passionate for the Lord, kind, and enjoy having a great time. It is amazing how close we got to them in such a short time (camp will do that I guess), and we are excited for these new friendships we have! 

I plan to write another post all about the second part of the trip which was implementing the English Language camp. Here is a sneak peek:

The camp went from Friday to Wednesday morning, and then we shopped in Kiev Wednesday night. We had our last debriefing session after Kiev and left for home at 3:30am Thursday morning. So many memories were created, so stay tuned!

Poka (bye)!


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